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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats win in improbable fashion, top No. 23 UCLA

Jen Pimentel
Arizona outflieder Zach Gibbons (23) races toward first base during Arizona’s 11-5 victory of St. Mary’s on March 2.

With the game on the line, Bobby Dalbec stepped up to the plate and delivered, hitting a walk-off double to cap off a five-run ninth inning to lift the Arizona baseball team to an improbable 6-5 comeback victory over the No. 23 UCLA Bruins at Hi Corbett Field on Saturday afternoon.

“I try to formulate my words and all of that, but I don’t know what to say,” Arizona head coach Jay Johnson said. “I’ve been a part of a lot of good wins, but that’s about as special as they come.”

Dalbec, who started the at-bat down 0-2 in the count and hadn’t gotten a hit all game, pulled an inside pitch far out of the left fielder’s reach.

“The first pitch was a good pitch to hit. The second one I was just trying to be aggressive and it was probably out of the zone and I chased it a little bit,” Dalbec said. “For some reason I had a hunch they were going to go hard at me, since they had kind of been doing that all day, so I sat on it and I got a good piece of it.”

Alfonso Rivas, who had just tied the game up with a two-run single, scored the winning run all the way from first base. He didn’t even think about stopping at third.

“I was going all the way as soon as the ball was hit” Rivas said. “I just knew I had to score on that play, so I gave it all I got. I was running with my head down.”

The Wildcats were trailing 5-1 heading into the final frame and had trouble getting anything going in the first eight innings of the game. UCLA starter Kyle Molnar pitched the first seven innings, allowing just five hits while striking out eight Wildcats.

“I got worried actually,” Johnson said. “It looked like the ball was going to pass [the left fielder] and it just kind of died as it hit the grass, but [Rivas] turned on another gear in the last 45 feet.”

But somehow, as Johnson put it, the Wildcats managed to get four hits and five runs in the ninth inning to complete the comeback.

“The motto in the ninth was to make something weird happen,” said Cameron Ming. “Some weird things happened and fortunately it went our way.”

Johnson couldn’t agree more. 

“To get that many hits strung together was a borderline miracle,” Johnson said.

Ming pitched five innings for the Wildcats, allowing two runs while striking out four. He kept the Bruins scoreless until the fifth inning, but things would start unravel from there.

After Eric Stephens was hit by a pitch to leadoff the inning for the Bruins, he stole second and eventually an infield single put runners on the corners with one out.

Ming got a strikeout for the second out, but instead of getting the third out and escaping trouble, Luke Persico singled to center, driving in the game’s first run.

Then Bruins’ cleanup hitter Eric Filia would follow it up with an RBI single of his own to extend UCLA’s lead to 2-0.

“Quite honestly, I had nothing left in the tank,” Ming said. “I pitched last night and I was pretty exhausted around the third inning, so I just kind of grinded it out out there and I just gave our team everything I had.”

Ming was replaced before the sixth inning by Michael Flynn, but Flynn couldn’t stop the bleeding. He gave up a leadoff double and then fell behind to his next hitter before being replaced by Rivas. Rivas, who entered with a 3-0 count, walked Christoph Bono and worked himself into trouble.

An infield single loaded the bases and Rivas would walk the next batter, scoring a run and extending UCLA’s lead to 3-0. Cody Deason later replaced Rivas, but Perisco singled to right off Deason. It was Perisco’s third RBI of the game and it increased UCLA’s lead to 5-0.

Arizona finally got on the board in the bottom half of the sixth, thanks to an RBI groundout by Cesar Salazar.

That was the Wildcats’ only run until the ninth inning, when the Wildcats’ offense came to life at the perfect time.

Zach Gibbons lined out to start the inning, but then the next five Wildcats reached base. Cody Ramer brought a run home with an RBI single to make it a 5-2 game, then Ryan Aguilar doubled to left-center to make it 5-3.

Rivas then shot one through the right side of the infield, scoring both Aguilar and Ramer to tie the game up, and it brought Dalbec up to the plate with the winning run on first.

The rest is history and the Wildcats, in an unlikely fashion, were able to escape with a series win.

“It’s a great stepping down for beating the adversity that we were in,” Ming said. “Coming back in the ninth inning is not easy to do, and that shows you that even if we’re down in the ninth … we have a chance to make something weird happen as we like to say.”

The Wildcats improved their home record to 11-1 and are now 16-7 overall and 3-3 in Pac-12 Conference play this season.

“There’s a lot of magic at Hi Corbett,” Ming said.

The Wildcats will return to action at Hi Corbett Field on Tuesday, when they’ll start a two-game series against University of California, Riverside. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.

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